School start time debate heats up in Barrington
Officials share new cost-efficient proposal; crowd still divided
7:45. 8:30. 8:15 — What time should Barrington High School and Middle School students start class in the morning?
The debate over school start times in Barrington continued on Thursday night, when the school committee discussed the latest possible change. In an effort to reach a more cost-efficient or cost-neutral start time option, school officials pitched an 8:15 a.m. start for the district's older students.
With the proposed 8:15 start, the school district could reportedly allow for the increased benefits of a later start for older students while not pinching taxpayers for the additional $400,000-plus each year that would be required for the 8:30 a.m. start.
Prior to inviting public comments from the people at the meeting, Barrington School Committee Chairwoman Kate Brody shared her feelings about the start time situation.
Ms. Brody thanked all the people who helped work on the start time plan, including the ad hoc committee. But, she added, that much has changed since the school committee first voted to move start times to 8:30 a.m. more than a year ago. She mentioned an unexpected increase in medical premiums this year and the loss of state aid to Barrington schools.
Ms. Brody said the committee had not been looking at making a 1 percent increase to the budget that it likely could not sustain year after year.
The chairwoman said she did not want to sacrifice the benefits of the start time, but needed to recognize that "the landscape has changed."
Without making a final decision, the school committee then opened up the discussion to the dozens of people who attended the meeting.
Some, including Dr. Lisa Daft, Tom Rimoshytus, Kim Jacobs and Anne Merlino, voiced their support for no change to school start times or a minimal change that would not carry a hefty price tag.
Others, including Erika Sevetson, Pam Lauria, Pete Bilderback and Scott Douglas, urged the school committee to "hold the line" and stay with the 8:30 a.m. start time.
The divisive nature of the conversation also compelled people to speak during the meeting. Many people said they were not happy with how residents were treating each other during the debate. Others said they were nervous to share their feelings in the mixed room.
Toward the end of the discussion, one resident who has two teenage daughters said that the real culprit in the lack of sleep is not an early wake-up time, but rather the amount of time high school and middle school students dedicate to their electronic devices.
"I seriously question how many of these kids have any idea how much they sacrifice to their electronics. We're just giving them more time to be on their electronics," she said.